From the beginning, our mission to awaken a sense of wonder and inspire environmental stewardship through natural science education has been the guiding principle behind the design of our new campus home. From the Mountain Discovery Center's interactive exhibits to the dedicated smart classrooms at the Field Studies Base Camp (FSBC) our goal has been to create a space where students of all ages will be inspired to learn more about the amazing natural world around us.
As we thought about the actual construction of our center, we knew we were interested in making it efficient and sustainable. As we learned more about the US Green Building Program's LEED system, we saw that there was synergy with our mission. Not only would it save us money over the life of our buildings, we could also use the design to teach and inspire our youth, teachers and visitors while protecting precious natural resources.
In order to earn LEED certification we had to consider numerous factors that, as we came to see, just made sense. From the orientation of our buildings and height of windows to where we purchased our wood siding, various design decisions saved natural resources and promised to save our organization money so that we can focus on educating students. A generous gift from the Precourt family allowed us to explore the highest level of LEED certification- Platinum. We are currently on track to meet this standard which would make us the only science center in the state with this designation.
Walking Mountains also received a $50,000 High Performance Design Grant last year from the Governor's Energy Office. These monies will help pay for high efficiency shading devices, insulation and windows, and a building-performance display monitor, to achieve the goal of reducing energy consumption by 45% and gain LEED-Platinum certification.
Our local architect Zehren, partnered with Mithun from Seattle which has extensive experience in designing LEED certified buildings. With the guidance of our entire design team and our builder, RA Nelson, we have incorporated the following technologies - some of which are new to this valley:
- A highly efficient building envelope that drastically reduces the amount of energy (54% less than conventional construction) required to keep buildings comfortable.
- Use of the most cost effective high efficiency windows available, which offer over 3 times the insulation of conventional triple pane design.
- Straw bale walls on the FSBC for their insulative and renewable qualities.
- A building orientation that allow for maximum passive solar heating and natural lighting.
- Solar thermal technology for heating water and radiant floors.
- Solar photo voltaic panels that will produce over 33% of our electrical needs.
- Ground source heat pumps than provide a base load of 30% of our annual heating needs.
We look forward to sharing these technologies with students, teachers and visitors once our campus opens in late August. If you'd like to learn more, please call our office (970-827-9725) or visit our website (www.walkingmountains.org).